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PANEL STILL WRANGLES OVER LIMITS ON SUB-MINIMUM WAGE

SHARE PANEL STILL WRANGLES OVER LIMITS ON SUB-MINIMUM WAGE

More fireworks are expected during the final meeting of the Labor Code Recodification Task Force over whether there should be a limit on the number of hours that new employees can be paid a sub-minimum wage.

The meeting will be held Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. in Room 324 of the State Capitol and those who believe there should be a limit on the number of hours plan to bring the issue before the task force for another vote. This issue appears to be the last remaining stumbling block before the task force submits its labor code revisions to the Legislature.During this past week's meeting, task force members received a draft of the bill that proposes to increase the state's minimum wage to $3.35 per hour. Mary Ann Wood noticed one section that read, "Learners may be exempt from the minimum wage for the first 160 hours of employment."

She was under the impression that during the previous meeting the task force voted to remove any reference to hours for learners receiving a sub-minimum wage, leaving the period of time up to the State Industrial Commission.

When she made a motion to remove the reference to 160 hours from the proposed bill, labor and pro-labor members of the task force objected.

Ed Mayne, president of the AFL-CIO, said removing the time element would allow employers to take advantage of new employees by keeping them in a "learner" status for a long period, allowing the employer to pay less than the minimum wage.

Proponents of Wood's motion, those representing management, argued that the commission will set the time limit after studying how long it usually takes to train new workers, just as the commission established other rules.

In a close vote, the management-oriented side prevailed, but Mayne said he intended to raise the issue again at the final meeting.

It also was Mayne who insisted the task force have another meeting so they could consider testimony presented by nearly a dozen witnesses on the minimum wage bill and amendments to the law governing employment of minors. Without consideration of those comments, holding the public hearing would have been sham, Mayne said.

In the proposal to raise the state minimum wage, which affects only 8,710 Utah workers since the remainder are covered by the $3.35 per hour in the Fair Labor Standards Act, the commission can review the state figure any time, but is required to review the wage every three years or when the federal minimum wage is changed.

There are several exemptions in the proposed bill to paying the minimum wage, including outside sales people, an employee who is a member of the employer's immediate family, casual and domestic employees, certain seasonal employees, any federal employee or prisoners employed in the penal system.

A second major bill drafted by the task force governs wages and working conditions for minors. It gives the commission the authority to establish a minimum wage for minors and also outlines what type of work minors of various ages can do and comply with the law.

Both bills give the commission the authority to investigate complaints of violators and file criminal charges, if necessary.